Eggplant Relish

15 lbs of homegrown produce!

Harvest season is here! This has been our best gardening year yet. I owe it all to our bunnies actually. It was their little pellets, collected through the winter which has made our plants produce like crazy. Between that and the warmer, drier temperatures this summer, we are just awash with so many delicious fresh vegetables!

This year we are growing tomatoes (we have about 30 plants!), zucchini, ground cherries, carrots, cabbages, sugar snap peas, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons lettuces, Swiss chard and arugula and beans (hope I am not forgetting anything). We tried new varieties of tomatoes this year, German Pink, Black from Tula and Ukrainian Purple, all developed in colder climates. We also tried cold climate melons. All are doing great this year!

This year, so far we have preserved 25 lbs of cabbage (red and green), 11 lbs of greens, 15 lbs of stone fruits, 10 lbs of tomatoes, as well as assorted carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, onions, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. So it has been a busy couple of months. We are really going to enjoy this in the winter months. That taste of summer is always so welcomed when the snows are falling down all around us.

I want to share with you a delicious condiment that I made. One that I wanted to dig right into but will have to reserve a bit of will power to leave it on the shelf for the dead of winter when the taste of sun ripened tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be just the right thing I need to lift my spirits!

Eggplant-Tomato Relish (from The Joy of Pickling – My VERY favorite cookbook for this time of year!)
Makes 2 pints

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 tsp sea salt
6 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes
¾ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 TBS pine nuts
1 TBS capers
Black pepper to taste

METHOD: In a bowl, toss eggplant with salt, put in a colander and let drain for an hour or so. Rinse eggplant and drain it well. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pot. Add eggplant and sauté about 5 minutes. Add onion and pepper and sauté another 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Over medium heat bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring often for about an hour. Remove bay leaf and ladle mixture into pint or half pint mason jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Close jars with 2-piece caps and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup

 

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows how much I rely on herbs and plants to keep myself healthy. My interest in herbs began sometime in high school after reading The Mists of Avalon which is full of herbal lore and of course magic and just went on from there.

I don’t think herbal remedies are magic, per se, I think they are natural ways to keep our bodies in the best shape possible, mentally, physically and emotionally. Herbs are helpers who have evolved right along with us, our allies. As people that love to cook, we use herbs a lot in day to day life spicing up our dishes. But there are also healing properties behind the many culinary herbs we use.

If you have ever enjoyed Middle Eastern desserts you may have encountered rose water. Or if you watched the amazing movie, Like Water for Chocolate you will remember vividly the scene in which the protagonist cooks up a wooing meal using roses.

Roses, both wild and domesticated are edible, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. I find roses to taste rather sweet (big surprise!) and they are also incredibly soothing. In herbal medicine they are considered to be cooling and dry, but there is a warmth to them to be sure. It is no coincidence that people have been using roses to tell people they love them for a very long time, because it has much to tell us about the properties of roses.

Roses are associated with the heart and are good for both cardiovascular issues and emotional well-being. They are good for keeping our bodies balanced. Rose petals are high in Vitamin C making it a good idea to use in staving off colds or other infections. Rose petals, because of the natural occurring acids they contain is good for keeping your GI tract in good condition. Rose petals have been known to expel toxins in the gut and helps support the good and friendly flora in the gut.

Rose petals can also help with stress and emotions. One of my herbal teachers recently said that she uses Rose to help people create healthy boundaries, to give the person an ability to give and receive love without wearing their heart on their sleeve. Rose petals are physically almost see through when you hold them up to the light, but to the touch they are almost leathery, roses are beautiful but also thorny. Rose teaches us about balance, helps regulate the emotions and helps us navigate intimate relationships.

Roses are in full bloom right now, but if your roses are past their prime, don’t worry, just wait for them to give way to rose hips, their natural fruit!

I made my rose syrup the same day that I was blanching stone fruits for the freezer. I decided not to throw away the water I used for blanching and to use it for my syrup. I also added a star anise, a few cardamom pods and a vanilla bean to the brew in addition to following the recipe from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter. The result is a delicious syrup, perfect for adding to fizzy water for a wonderful summertime drink. I also find it goes well in a cup of herbal tea as the sweetener. Check out the link to the original recipe and you will find more uses there for rose syrup.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup (adapted from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter)

INGREDIENTS:

approximately 3 cups loose, unsprayed rose petals
5 cups cold water
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 star anise
A few cardamom pods
A vanilla bean

METHOD: Just pick a few handfuls of unsprayed rose petals, throw them in a pot with sugar and water (and additional spices, if desired), bring everything to a simmer and cook for about five minutes before adding lemon juice (important for both the color and the flavor!). Remove from heat, and allow everything to infuse overnight. All you have to do the next day is strain it and store it in the refrigerator (I also froze some).

Cortido and Kraut (…and a lamb!)

This has been an exciting week on the homestead! We welcomed the first lamb ever to be born on our farm into the world on Tuesday! We named her Thorina, after the Norse God of Thunder. She was born during our first major thunderstorm of the season, which is very auspicious. Just look at this face…

…and here she is less than 48 hours later out on pasture with her mom, Inga.

How amazing she is! Such a strong little girl – loves exploring the farm. To read more about her, check out my homesteading blog, Got Goats? (…and sheep too!).

It has been a while since I wrote about fermented foods – a staple in our house. On a daily basis, we find ourselves enjoying delicious fermented foods made at home such as yogurt, dairy kefir, water kefir, kefir cream (like sour cream) historic raw milk cheeses, quark, ginger carrots, kombucha, lacto fermented pickles, traditional sauerkraut, cortido and various fermented condiments.

Why do we love fermented foods? Well for one they are extremely good for you – a way of getting high quality probiotics into your body without having to take a supplement and whole body health really starts in the gut. Having healthy gut flora keeps the bad bugs at bay and naturally boosts you immune system. Plus they taste extremely delicious and fermenting foods is a traditional food preservation method. To learn more about this method of preservation, please read my post: Lacto Fermentation Questions Answered.

During the summer months we have an abundance of vegetables. In addition to our own ( growing every year) kitchen garden (we are now up to 12 vegetable beds and soon to be adding 4 herb beds) we also join a local CSA. This ensures that we can eat our fill of delicious fresh vegetables all summer long and have enough to preserve a large majority for winter eating . My favorite preserved vegetables are sauerkraut and cortido, a Latin American cabbage and carrot ferment. I love sauerkraut all year long, but cortido feels like summer to me! Cortido is a great condiment to eat on tacos or to serve with your favorite grilled meats.

We should all be well into garden season now, at least in the Northern hemisphere (we are in one of the coldest gardening zones – zone 3, so if we got our tomatoes in the ground, most everyone else already is harvesting veggies!) and so these are some great recipes to keep on hand for when you or your local farmers get a bumper crop of cabbage and carrots! Both are very easy to make and are not time consuming and both are a delicious way to preserve your summer abundance for the leaner winter months while naturally boosting your immune system!

Sauerkraut (from Nourishing Traditions)

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 TBS caraway seeds
1 TBS sea salt
4 TBS whey (or if not available an additional TBS of salt)

METHOD: In a bowl mix cabbage with caraway seeds, salt and whey (If using). Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in a quart sized wide mouth mason jar and press down firmly until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes one quart. It may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age. *I have had some of my jars for over a year and they are still delicious!

Cortido (from Nourishing Traditions)

INGREDIENTS:
1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup carrots, grated
2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise and finely sliced
1 TBS dried oregano
¼-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS sea salt
4 TBS whey (or an additional TBS of salt if not available)

METHOD: In a large bowl mix cabbage, carrots onions, oregano, red pepper flakes, sea salt and whey (If using). Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in two quart sized wide mouth mason jars and press down firmly until juices come to the top of the vegetables in each jar. The top of the vegetables should be at least one inch below the top of the jars. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes two quarts. It may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.

Cooking from the Pantry: Chicken with Artichokes, Garbanzos and Tomatoes

I have a few food goals this year; one is to start creating meals solely from the pantry and freezer. We are fortunate to be well stocked in those areas – for the past two years we have been buying whole or half animals for meat and also started raising a batch of meat chickens every summer and I do a lot of canning, preserving and freezing (as well as storing root vegetables) from our summer garden.

But I am like every other foodie, I love going food shopping and I found that every few weeks, when we would go, I would come home with enough stuff to basically feed us without dipping into the reserves too much. I was cooking the meat, using some core products from the pantry but kind of turning a blind eye to the preserves and such. I guess that is the folly of this modern world, where even those of us who are hyper-aware about where our food comes from, who take extra time and effort to grow food and preserve it and who cares deeply about sustainability still can be dazzled by all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. Humans can be so silly sometimes…

I decided that this pattern of mine had to end.  So I started by pretending that my house was the market, and I started shopping here and realize that we have so much bounty! I also started going through all my many shelves of cookbooks and marking recipes that I would like to try. Then I took the next step, and actually make a document, listing and categorizing the recipes. Then once a week, we look at the list and pick out several things to try – maybe 3 dinners, some breakfast and lunch ideas, a dessert or two, several sides or salads, that kind of thing. Then I put the meals on a dry-erase board and that is our menu board for the week, leaving some days open for spontaneity and of course pizza night (every Friday).

This is a creation I came up with on my own, but I think in the coming months you will see that I am drawing inspiration from many cookbooks of various genres. I am excited about this project as it is keeping me creative and entertained in the kitchen, exploring some new cuisines I haven’t spent much time with lately and learning some new techniques.

This dish is very simple and extremely flavorful. The best part is that everything I needed was at home. The chicken is one we raised and the other items came from the pantry or freezer. Since we live in a rural area, we have found that shopping in bulk (through Amazon Prime, mostly) saves us a lot of time, money and gas, so we stock up on interesting things, like artichoke hearts. I hope you enjoy this recipe, good enough for Sunday night dinner, without much effort.

INGREDIENTS:

1 TBS lard (When I am browning meat I like to use lard, so I can get it nice and hot without smoking – and lard from healthy animals can be a healthy part of your diet in moderation – no Crisco! That is not real lard).

4 whole chicken legs

Salt, thyme and basil to taste

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 can of artichoke hearts (we use Native Harvest – their cans are BPA free)

½ a leek, sliced thin

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 jar or can of chick peas (I use dry beans, soak them, partially cook them and then freeze them in canning jars for easy use, but you can use canned if you like)

1 can of diced tomatoes (a small can – I know Eden Organics has BPA free cans available)

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

 METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat a cast iron tagine, cast iron skillet or dutch oven on low for about 5 minutes (this makes it hot but prevents burning) and add the lard. Rub the chicken legs with the herbs and spices. Brown chicken on all sides and drizzle with red wine vinegar. Add the artichoke hearts, leeks, garlic, chick peas, tomatoes and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place the lid on and let slow cook for 2 hours. Serve with bread and butter.

Potato-Leek Fritters

 

This year I fell in love with leeks. I have cooked with them before, but not often. I know it might sound strange but leeks intimidated me. There are all these stories about how you have to clean them so well, etc. and I just didn’t think they were worth it. I know, go ahead…*gasp*

I have since learned the error of my ways. This year, our CSA grew leeks and so they were on offering every week and more plentiful than onions, so I started really using them a lot. I have come to adore their wonderful sweet flavor and they looks so beautiful in dishes – and cook much faster than onions.

Some of my favorite dishes to use leeks in are the Buckwheat Noodles with Mushrooms and Sour Cream that I shared last time and basically anything with potatoes…these fritters being right up there. We grew a wonderful crop of 4 varities of heirloom potatoes this year, and I must admit they are the best potatoes I have ever eaten. So flavorful and wonderfully earthy. I now understand why the French call them pommes de terre or apples of the earth.

I should have posted this as a leftover holiday dish, but honestly these are so good, that they are worth making mashed potatoes for! We enjoy these alongside eggs for breakfast, or for dinner as a side dish. In fact, they could probably be perfectly satisfying as a main dish! Just make them!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of smashed potatoes (I like gold fleshed potatoes for this)
1 large egg, scrambled
½ cup of sliced leek rings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of herbs de Provence
½ to ¾ cup of garbanzo bean flour – enough so that the patties are easy to form
Lard or butter for frying
Sour cream or hot sauce (or both!)to garnish

METHOD:

Heat up a cast iron skillet on low until nice and hot. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and shape into patties (will make about 8-10 depending on how big you make them). Place lard or butter in the pan and melt and fry patties on each side for a total of about 5-7 minutes per patty. I generally have the oven at 250 F and put the finished patties in the oven to stay warm. Serve with sour cream/hot sauce and enjoy!

Your Favorite Posts of 2011

 

I really want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and blogging friends for your support this year, both on this blog, as well as through Facebook and Twitter! As social media grows, it seems more of our interactions together take place on other websites, for example my Facebook page and Twitter account has amassed so many followers, I am just astounded and overwhelmed. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of you this way! Thank you!

It is hard to believe another year of blogging has gone by! Getting these posts together every year is always a great look back on all the wonderful food we have enjoyed. I hope all of you reading this also had a great 2011 and are all looking forward to 2012! Here are the top 10 posts from this year. If you enjoy something that I post, please click the “like” button at the top, to “like” it on facebook, also feel free to tweet about it or leave me a comment. This is very helpful to me to know what kinds of posts you all want to see!

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of posts you would like to see on this blog in 2012! Happy New Year!

 

NUMBER 10: Breakfast of Champions and my First YouTube!


 

Number 9: The BEST Gluten-Free Pancakes EVER

 

Number 8: Drying Apples For Winter Storage

 

Number 7: Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding

 

Number 6: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Number 5: Musings on Homesteading

 

Number 4: How to Make Kefir at Home…and Why You Should!

 

Number 3: DIY Holiday Gift Series: Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

Number 2: Making Yogurt at Home: Filmjölk

 

And your favorite post of 2011: Number 1: Got Raw Milk? Food Freedom Fighters!


Emma’s Vanilla Beet Cake (Gluten-Free)

 

You know how Red Velvet cakes have been all the rage these past few years? That bold red color certainly makes a statement and looks so inviting. When I realized it was only vanilla cake dyed with red food dye, it totally lost its luster for me. A cake filled with artificial dyes that can be harmful to some people just doesn’t get me all that excited, to tell you the truth, no matter how cute it is. In fact, now, every time I see a recipe for Red Velvet Cake, I get a little angry, now it makes me SEE red! So imagine how intrigued I was when I heard about this cake from a fellow CSA member. A red colored cake that was made with natural ingredients, and gives you the nutritional benefit of the beautiful beets as opposed to filling your body with a large dose of chemicals in every bite.

This is a beautiful, unique and delicious cake recipe that was created by one of our fabulous CSA farmers, Emma. Emma and Ben planted a wonderful CSA for us, their members, this year. Even though we grew our own garden, it wasn’t big enough to allow for extra to preserve and we all know how much I love preserving! This was their first year doing a CSA and they did a perfect job! If you are a local, please check out Hatch Brook Gardens for next year – this young and very talented couple would appreciate your support!

You can see Emma’s Original Recipe here, but I had to modify it a bit to make it gluten free. It is a wonderfully moist cake that I think would lend itself beautifully to a nice cream cheese frosting. You don’t taste the beets in it, if anything; the beets add an extra wonderful earthy sweetness. If you really want to wow your guests this holiday season, this cake will do it! :)

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:

2 C beet puree – I roasted the beets at 400 for about 40 minutes and then pureed, roasting brings out the natural sugars in the beets.
1 ½ C GF oat flour
1 C coconut flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups pure maple syrup
½ C melted butter or coconut oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
¼ tsp. cinnamon

For the Glaze:
¼ c melted butter
¼ c melted coconut oil
¼ c maple syrup
Maple confectioner’s sugar to dust

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix all the cake ingredients together in one bowl. Emma suggests you use your “batter intuition” if it looks loose, add more flour and baking powder to match. Then pour into a prepared cake pan (I used a traditional round). Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool a little bit. I didn’t and so my frosting just kind of sunk into the cake, which wasn’t too terrible of a thing to happen! :)

For the frosting, Emma mixes together 1/2 cup of butter, maple, and confectioners’ sugar and applies it when the cake is still warm so it melts in to a glaze. I liked the addition of a bit of coconut oil as well and I used maple confectioners’ sugar.
I think it would be wonderful to double the recipe and make a layer cake with cream cheese- maple frosting. At least that is what I am doing next! :)

Enjoy!

 

Guest Post: An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad

I have one more guest post to share with you, for now, dear readers. This one comes to you by my friend Diana, from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. Diana and I have been foraging a friendship over this last year based in a love for the land, animals, and real, wholesome food. I love Diana for her honesty, and the way she really opens the door to her life on her urban homestead in Iowa through her blog. I know, doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron, that someone living in Iowa would consider their home to be urban? But again, that is the beauty of sharing lives with each other through blogging – you learn how wrong you are about so much and how much there is still to learn! I love that.

Diana and I both raise heritage breed chickens, and love to garden. Even though we are mostly at the end of our garden season here, many of you are still awash in tomatoes and eggplants, and this recipe is perfect for you. For the rest of us, let’s stock it away for next year! Now for a recipe straight from the garden, the lovely Diana takes it from here.

 

Thank you, Jenn, for inviting me to guest post on your blog.  You always inspire me in your dedication to live a life in sustainability and stewardship.

I’ve had the privilege of befriending Jenn over the past year.  Kindred spirits you might say.

We share a passion in real food and homesteading including calloused hands and dirt grimed fingernails from working our own pieces of land.

 

I an urban homesteader and she a homesteader.  Besides a shared appreciation of worm castings and poop, what I enjoy about Jenn is her love of fine cooking.

As much as I adore to work in my organic gardens and raise backyard urban chickens for eggs and meat, I find joy when I’m able to share the fruits of my labor with family and friends at the dinner table.

When Jenn asked me to share a simple seasonal recipe, I decided to share with you something special using end of the season eggplant and cherry tomatoes.

 

Eggplant has a sort of villain/superhero kind of reputation.  Some love it while others despise the notion of even looking at such an odd fruit that comes in so many shapes and sizes.

I enjoy eggplant and find that as long as it’s cooked along side other vegetables and herbs, it brings out the best in it’s texture and flavor.

A sure way to make any vegetable pleasing, including eggplant, is to roast them sprinkled with celtic sea salt and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

 

It deepens their flavor and when it comes to eggplant, gives them a bit more sustenance without the creaminess.

An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad

 


This is a simple salad to make using white navy beans, tuna, roasted eggplant and tomatoes.  It’s mixed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese and fresh cut rosemary.  Deep and vibrant it makes a perfect side dish for a busy weekday meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white navy beans
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 20 cherry tomatoes (use some green unripened tomatoes if you have them), cut in half
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tbls fresh cut rosemary, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Feta cheese to garnish

Method:

1. In a baking dish, add the diced eggplant and half cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in a 375F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Once roasted, remove from the baking dish and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix the beans, tuna, roasted eggplants and tomatoes.  Add the balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and fresh cut rosemary.  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

3. Garnish with Feta Cheese.

Buen Provecho!